Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Staying in or going out with horses

I have a major obsession with horses. I love being around them, watching them and stroking them. So last weekend was a special treat as I got to actually ride a horse for the first time in about 15 years. It was so exciting even though I am a) a bit rubbish and b) it makes your bottom really sore! On Sunday afternoon D took me on a day out to Bransby Home of Rest for Horses, one of my absolute favourite places in the world. A few months back they brought in a number of horses from Wrexham who had been really badly treated. There was one, Bobby, who simply stood in the corner of his stable looking down in the dumps. But on Sunday I got to have a good fifteen minutes of proper strokes. It was lovely to see the progress he and his friends had made. Animal cruelty is one of the things I find utterly impossible to understand. Human beings are simply horrid.

Other than that, I have mostly been hanging around at home merrily writing. The book is coming along well although it will need quite a bit of brutal editing. You can't edit a blank page though, so I am encouraged. I had a day at University yesterday to go to an awards ceremony where I was presented with my teaching certificate. Fairly proud of that achievement and really enjoyed the process. The awards event was fun with canapes, balloons and Bucks Fizz (I had five sips and realised it was alcoholic...put it down). There was a great positive vibe - Lincoln has had (and still has) obstacles to overcome but I am super proud to work at such a groovy institution.

Otherwise life for me is very quiet while life for D and everyone else I know seems to be hectic in the extreme. I know that my months of peace will come to an end soon enough. I feel very privileged to have had these days just to write and reflect. I am also looking forward to meeting our first years and getting back into teaching come January. My teaching and research are so intertwined now that it is quite difficult to imagine them separately.

This week I have mostly been enjoying Zuzana's youtube workouts (my arms still ache from Monday), Starbucks gingerbread lattes, large mangoes and Les Miserables in novel form. I started reading the latter a while ago and have now got to that joyful stage where I can dip in and out when I find the time. It is an amazing novel and considerably better than the musical version even though I will always have a soft spot for that. I am hoping to finish it before the new film in January. I am excited about the film because a) Hugh Jackman is playing Valjean. Perfect casting in every way b) Colm Wilkinson who played the original Valjean in the London production is playing my favourite character (in the book anyways) the Bishop. Colm was an absolute hero of mine growing up. His voice is amazing and still makes me feel a little emotional. I am so glad he is part of this new version. I imagine that D would prefer to pull both his arms off than to see this film so I might even go alone. Going to the cinema on my own is one of my little life joys (I do love going with D too, you understand). At the end of the academic year when I was in Edinburgh I used to celebrate by going to the cinema (generally the Filmhouse) and watching a great film alone. It was always a super happy way to spend the afternoon.

Anyways, that is the end of my break so I had better crack on. Want to meet my acwrimo target by lunchtime. Then this afternoon I can crack on with the next chapter and do a couple of other jobs like booking trains to Ormskirk (I am speaking at Edge Hill University on the 28th) and replying to emails.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful November.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Acwrimo and a chill in the air

You may be wondering what on earth the title is all about. Acwrimo is a Twitter-based academic community whose members have committed to a particular writing challenge during the month of November. It stands for 'Academic Writing Month', the university version of Movember. I have a plan which largely centres around the second book as I'm hoping to get a total first draft done by Christmas. This is hugely ambitious but also necessary - once term comes around there will be very little time. So far so good. Today was particularly good - 2500 words (ish) and I even had time to vacuum the house.

November has arrived with a chilly bang in Nocton. The weather has suddenly got colder. Our house now needs heating though it is nowhere near as cold as you might imagine for a 150 year old country house made of stone. As I'm working at home during the day, I am re-enacting my undergraduate days with hot water bottles and rugs. I actually really like writing in a chilly(ish) room as not only do I stay awake but I also feel like a poet in a garret or a character in Crime and Punishment. These are all good things.

D is also working hard and is getting through all the study by having long days and working evenings. We had a happy weekend though with lots of films, a bit of shopping and church yesterday. We finally saw Skyfall on Saturday night. I liked it, D loved it. I just felt that it relied very heavily on Batman. In fact, on the way home I went through all the similarities and it was a little frightening! All jolly good fun though. We also saw Moneyball and The Artist (my favourite of the weekend - so wonderful and I LOVED the dog).

Last week I also travelled up to Dundee. Spent a couple of days with the fam in Edinburgh (good library days and lots of happy times with them) and then travelled up to the University to give my first ever invited lecture. This felt like a bit of a milestone and was such terrific fun. A small but wonderful audience who really inspired me with their questions and contributions. Then dinner and a night away. Once again, I as reminded that research can connect with people and it can be exciting and communal and democratic and fun. Returned feeling full of energy. And in two weeks I get to go to Edge Hill in Lancashire for another invited talk. Also have a quick trip down to London to work on something in the British Library and then the Northern Modernism seminar in Nottingham. November looked quite quiet and is suddenly fair frantic.

And on the horizon I can see my sabbatical coming to an end. It has been a joyous time so far. Having the time to write and read and think and say yes to engagements without a thought has been fab. I have missed the students very much and have been glad to have received a couple of dissertation emails. But, by and large, I have slipped straight back into PhD mode - lots of writing, reading, tea, wrapped in a rug. My job is just the best. And when I go back I get to teach all the stuff I have been excited about while writing the new book!

Anyways, I'm going to start dinner and turn the computer off for the night. I have American elections, University Challenge and (on Saturday) horse-riding to look forward to this week.